Many of the projects and exercises in the visual arts courses with the OCA leave a great deal of room for you to experiment and develop your own responses to the issue of subject matter. Suggestions are usually given for subjects that can easily be sourced near to home to underline the idea that you don’t necessarily need fantastic source materials to make a fantastic drawing – something which can be reassuring if you are dealing with limited mobility or otherwise restricted access to other places. Having said that, taking some time out to visit an inspirational place can lift your studies and give an exercise a new and energising angle, as well as filling your sketchbook with notes and ideas.
I would like to suggest that you consider locating an unusual museum in your local area for a research visit during 2016. Britain has some fantastically strange museums all over the place, often linked to local manufacturing or simply the result of a wealthy eccentric. Most of us have heard of the Pitt Rivers in Oxford with its totems and shrunken heads, and of the John Soames in the shadow of the British Museum but the list of off the wall hoards and displays is far reaching and there should be no need to travel a great distance to access one for your next project.
Consider for example Cuckooland – a collection of cuckoo clocks in Tabley, Cheshire brought together by brothers Roman and Maz Piekarski over forty years since the age of 15.
Or you could visit the dog collar museum in Leeds Castle which is confusingly in Kent. It’s the largest collection of dog collars in the world.
The Museum of Mental Health at Fieldhead Hospital includes a padded cell amongst other exhibits from the West Riding pauper lunatic asylum built in 1818.
Then there is the Lock Museum in Willenhall, the Pram Museum in Pailton, the Lawnmower museum in Trerice House, the House of Marbles in Devon and the Museum of Brands in Notting Hill (which incidentally houses the Robert Opie collection, apparently the largest collection of packaging and related material in the world.) Don’t forget the natural ‘museum’s as well. The Harcourt arboretum in Oxford is just one of many living tree museums dotted about the UK.
Perhaps we could use this blog post as a repository for information on strange and interesting museums and collections that you know of that could be shared with other students? I look forward to the results filtering through to assessment portfolios in the months to come!